Blank Maps

I love blank maps. As a retired history teacher, I have tortured generations of students with them, but not, despite what my former charges might have thought, to humiliate them as Secretary of State Pompeo tried to do to NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly this week.

I’m sure you’ve heard how Pompeo, miffed that Kelly had the temerity to ask him tough questions about Iran and Ukraine, called her into his private living room, swore at her, and called her a liar. “Americans don’t care about Ukraine,” he huffed as an aide placed a blank map of the world on a table. He demanded that she point to Ukraine, which, having a masters degree in European History from Cambridge University, she easily did. The story of his petulance, his rudeness, his vulgarity, his thin skin, went viral.

That’s not the only thing that is going viral this week. I admit that I had to look on a map to find the city of Wuhan, China, the home of patient zero in what is rapidly becoming a global pandemic. The coronavirus, like SARS and swine flu before it, is believed to have jumped to humans in a live animal market. Rapidly spreading to the rest of Asia, with new cases today identified in Australia and the Philippines, the virus is flying economy to the rest of the world in the respiratory systems of travelers who have recently visited Wuhan. Apparently, every infected person can be expected to transmit the disease to 2.5 others, but who knows whether that average will hold.

I suspect folks at the World Health Organization are filling in blank, probably electronic, maps of the globe with dots representing confirmed cases of this virus, a much more deadly version of the common cold. In this instance, a blank map would be a blessing rather than an attempt at intimidation.

In my household, we are also eagerly hoping for a blank map. As I wrote at Christmas time, my husband is in treatment for recurrent metastatic cancer caused by another virus: HPV. Easily preventable now because of the Gardasil vaccine administered to preteens, HPV-caused cancer is a growing epidemic among those of us infected before the advent of the vaccine. Eighty percent of the adult population has at one time or another contracted the virus. Only the unlucky few contract cancer, often many years later.

We thought that, like 90% of HPV cancer patients, Dan had the disease beaten after a grueling radiation and chemotherapy regimen eighteen months ago. But no. Dastardly spots appeared on his October PET scan.

So, this week, after eight weeks of research-trial-based immunotherapy, he will once again have his entire body mapped by CT and PET scans. And this time, that damn map better be blank, just as I hope the coronavirus map will be soon.

3 thoughts on “Blank Maps”

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